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Serial Entrepreneurship in CAD: SolidWorks and Onshape Founder Jon Hirschtick (Part 3)

Posted on Thursday, Jul 16th 2020

Sramana Mitra: What year does this bring us up to?

Jon Hirschtick: 1993. I stayed two and a half years with Computer Vision. 

Sramana Mitra: I started at MIT in the Fall of 1993.

Jon Hirschtick: So you were a freshman at MIT.

Sramana Mitra: I was a grad student. I did my undergraduate at Smith College.

Jon Hirschtick: I used to go to Smith when I was a student. I knew some girls out there.

Sramana Mitra: I’m sure you did.

Jon Hirschtick: I decided I didn’t like being at a big company anymore. I wanted to do something on my own again. I got disillusioned with big companies. I had this urge to create something. Originally I didn’t want to be in the CAD business anymore.

I decided to leave Computer Vision and take a little time and think. I published a letter when I left. It ended up in a book called The Portable MBA. I left in 1993. I took a few months and I thought of different ideas.

I thought maybe I’d start a catalog retailer of gambler supplies. I couldn’t get out of my mind what I had seen in the CAD business that I loved so much. I had seen this company called PTC where I’m now.

Sramana Mitra: Do you know a company called Think Three?

Jon Hirschtick: Yes, sure.

Sramana Mitra: I worked with Joe to turn around Think Three. That must have been 2001.

Jon Hirschtick: You were at Think Three?

Sramana Mitra: I consulted for Think Three. I know Joe very well because of that. Think Three was in a lot of trouble at that time. I know PTC very well because PTC was a direct competitor.

Jon Hirschtick: In the 80’s, PTC launches and they do something that, at that time, people had talked about but no one had been able to do. They get 3D modelling to work. We had talked about that at the CAD lab, but no one had really gotten it to work. They were killing it in the market. They owned the market. They ate our lunch at Computer Vision.

I had spent time visiting customers who we’d lost to PTC. I saw that PTC had really great technology but it was expensive. It’s a UNIX workstation. I knew all about Windows from my first startup. I was a Windows guy. I thought, “I could see everyone in the world using this 3D but not the way PTC has built it.” I think that they would use it if we built it in Windows. We needed to build the whole CAD system. Needless to say, that is a big job.

Sramana Mitra: Yes, that’s a very big project.

Jon Hirschtick: A lot of people had a vision.

Sramana Mitra: That’s not an easy vision to execute on.

Jon Hirschtick: That’s where I’ll take credit. Where I’ll take credit is, I had the guts to go do it. 

Sramana Mitra: You had the confidence to actually execute on it. 

Jon Hirschtick: I find that entrepreneurs are these odd combination of confidence and insecurity. I tried to raise money for this, but nobody will invest. It took me a year to raise money. Nobody wants to invest. Kleiner Perkins won’t return my calls. I talked to Greylock and Matrix.

People are like, “You’re going to compete with PTC? You’re going to build a whole CAD system.” I’m like, “Yes.” They go, “How many guys do you have?” I say, “Three.” No one wanted to invest. I said to them, “We’re going to get money. It’s taking awhile but we’re going to be successful.” That’s exactly what happened.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Serial Entrepreneurship in CAD: SolidWorks and Onshape Founder Jon Hirschtick
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